How to Stop Complex Projects From Going Off the Rails

Complex projects such as white papers, ebooks, original research reports, web copy, and messaging frameworks often involve multiple reviewers and decision-makers.

These projects can involve a lot of people with a lot of things to say. Often, their feedback is confusing and contradictory. And it doesn’t take long for the whole thing to go off the rails.

Unfortunately, this is something we will all experience. So we need to figure out how to deal with it when it happens and how to keep it from happening in the first place when we can.

Here are two key ways you can prevent—and mitigate—these messy situations.

  1. Insist on a Roadmapping Engagement

The first way to avoid this kind of situation is to insist on a roadmapping engagement for any complex project. If you sense the client doesn’t have 100% internal agreement about the topic, objective, approach, audience or plan for the asset—then a roadmapping engagement is even more essential.

Roadmapping engagements can be fairly simple. For a white paper project, for example, your roadmap might be a simple three- to four-page document. It’s essentially your project’s “constitution” that will guide you and your client through the process of bringing the white paper to life. It’s a bit like a creative brief. But (in this case), it’s specifically tailored for a white paper project.

The benefit of the roadmap goes well beyond the plan it outlines. It also forces the client to agree and buy into all the key elements of the project. By hashing everything out in advance, you get everyone—including all the decision-makers and reviewers—on the same page from the very beginning.

  1. Insist on a Single Point of Contact

The second way you can avoid these messy situations is to insist that your client name a single point of contact for the project who’s responsible for gathering, consolidating, and reconciling all feedback and edits before they go to you. Same goes for any out-of-scope items.

If a reviewer wants to add a new section that wasn’t part of the original plan, the point-of-contact person will kill the idea before you have to deal with it. This means you only have to deal with edits that are approved and aligned with the original plan.

Stop the Mess Before It Starts

Will these two approaches prevent all the messiness that comes with complex projects? Unfortunately, no.

But they can help prevent the worst of it and make the clean-up job easier.



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